CABOOM Parameters

CABOOM Stepptanz

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These notes are meant as a study resource for the participants of Sebastian Weber’s CABOOM workshops. If you have not attended a workshop, please be aware, that the information here might be incomplete.

Caboom is a comprehensive (and still developing!) approach to exhance visual qualities and expand the movement vocabulary for tap dance choreography.

1. Movement Analysis

A first starting point is to bring out inherent movement qualities of choreographed sequences by understanding the functional anatomy of the movement. To this end, we try to develope a vocabulary of movement parameters to identify which qualities are important in a given sequence.In trying to get a better understanding of the movement parameters, it sometimes helps to eliminate all shuffles and taps from the sequence and strip it to just the basic steps, almost as if it was not tap dance at all. I call this the „movement core“ of a sequence. Coordination, dynamics, and momentum are often easier to bring out in these simplified versions.  Once established, we try to bring the taps back in and check if that changes anything…

The following is a list of parameters that have been particularly helpful. Note that typically only a few of these parameters need to be considered and sometimes none at all. Any movement can be analysed endlessly, but the aim is to only focus on those aspects that help execute the movement more effectively or expressively.

Weight change

We usually do communicate weight changes in traditional tap vocabulary, so this is not news. Nevertheless, misunderstandings or lack of clarity with regard to weight changes sometimes lead to trouble…

Lateral Organisation

Is the movement coordinated homolaterally or contralaterally? Are you extending the coordination fully into the body or is an arm „cut off“? Is the mode of organization useful to a specific move in the choreographed sequence? If yes, are you using the potential fully? Observe that the mode of organisation does not only apply to the relationship of legs and arms to each other, but also of one arm to the other, one leg to the other, and can many times be felt all along the spinal axis.

Note that homo- or contralateral coordination often changes to its opposite when you switch from moving forward to moving backward without „correcting“ the arms.

If the mode of coordination changes within a choreographed sequence, where exactly does the change happen?

Also note that sometimes the movement of the legs and feet is so fast, that it feels more natural to not have a corresponding movement in the upper body to each movement of the legs, but rather move the upper body more independently. In those  cases, observe if the upper body movement is free or if there are movement „blocks“ in the arms, elbows, wrists, etc.

Apart from homo- and contralateral organisation, there also is the „homologues“ movement (deutsch: homolog), where the arms and / or legs move symmetrically, mirroring each other (think of a frog jumping). While this is generally an equally important option in dance, it seems to come up less often in my tap choreographies so far, so it has played a minor role in the workshops.

Spiral

When in contralateral organisation, we often find ourselves in spiral positions. These positions have a notable  tension, an elastic potential like that of a pulled rubber band which can be used like a „catapult effect“.

How do you get into the twisted position? How is it resolved? (turns, arm or leg swings, or just stepping out of the spiral…)  Can you use the „catapult effect“ to make the movement more dynamic? To what extend are centrifugal powers in effect? Are you using those to their full potential?

Countermovements

Any movement can also be perceived from the perspective of its countermovement. A step forward with the right foot, can also be perceived as a movement of the left foot pushing backwards into the floor etc.  Also, many times, the movement of one limb is counterbalanced by that of another.

Many times, directing our attention to a countermovement will help us make the movement more efficient and more dynamic. Generally, there are multiple countermovements in effect. For example, the swing of a leg may be counterbalanced by a swing of the opposite arm. At the same time that arm swing is counterbalanced by an opposing swing of the other arm. Also, as the leg is „flying“ one way, the hip might be pulling into the opposite direction, etc.

Can you identify movements in a choreographed sequence that make particular use of a countermovement? Can you feel, how movement and countermovement amplify and complete each other? By using the countermovement conciously, can you expand the original movement?

Off Balance

Sometimes, when movement and countermovement effectively pull on our body into different directions, those forces can hold our body in an off balance of sorts, meaning we would fall if we were not in motion. The motion holds us stable.

Sequences or „leadership“ of body parts

Which body part initiates or leads a movement? Which body parts follow? Do the body parts move at the same speed or at different speeds? What is the „inner logic“ of a sequence?

Paths and directions in space

We differentiate between general space – the stage ­– and personal space – the directions as seen from the perspective of the dancer.

We refer to the space that a dancer can reach or „fill“ with movement immeadiately around himself as the dancer’s „kinesphere“.

Joints

Which joints are folding and unfolding, twisting and unwisting?

Active and passive weight

Is the movement bound, free flowing, thrown? What relevance do momentum, gravity and muscle strength have?

Focus

Where do the dancers look at? Is the focus clear and direct? flexible? Is the dancers attention directed inward or outward?

Projection

This is admittedly a bit fuzzy, but: how far does the movement „project“ into space? Is it directed clearly outward or more inward? Is this quality used purposefully?

Relationships

If there are more dancers than one, what is their relationship? Are they aware of each other? Look at each other? Ignore each other? Do they interact? Or just dance next to each other? How far is the distance between them?

Phrasing

Does the movement sequence have accents? stops? accelerations? hesitations? high and low poits? Changes in speed or flow? Where does the phrase begin and end?

Movement quality

Does the movement flow smoothly? Is it chopped? Is it heavy? light? elastic? rigid? gliding? sustained? …?

2. Beyond Movement Analysis

The movement analysis is supposed to help us exploit the functional aesthetics of a movement sequence, to bring out movement that is inherent in the sequence anyways. Additionally, there may be movement added for purely aesthetic or thematic reasons, such as specific gestures.  (The lines are blurry, I know…) It is then a challenge to incorporate those movements organically.  On this level, CABOOM tries to find effective methods of creating, reflecting, and incorporating such movement in a dramaturgically convincing approach.

Other ingredients to the overall choreography are composition and arrangements, use of stillness and contrast, thematic subtexts and emotional associations for the dancers, and more. Generally, musical prescision, good phrasing and powerful rhythm are considered paramount.

Beyond the design of the movement itself, use of space, music, light. objects, costume, etc. are important aspects of the choreography and the CABOOM approach suggests to think of them as connected elements of an integrated whole with decisions made critically on the basis of the same unifiying theme.